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REX Marks Its First Year

September 19, 2007

by John Gendall

Correction appended September 20, 2007

In May 2006, Joshua Prince-Ramus, then the partner-in-charge of Rem Koolhaas’s OMA office in New York, announced that he would leave the firm to begin his own practice. With business partner and fellow OMA alumnus Erez Ella he founded REX: an acronym, with some rhetorical license, for Ramus Ella Architects. The new firm would take with it all of OMA’s projects—excluding only Paul Milstein Hall at Cornell University—along with the entire OMA staff.

Digital Water Pavilion
Image: Courtesy REX | OMA
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OMA has since built itself back to roughly 30 people. But during its first 12 months, REX remained relatively quiet, fueling speculation in the press, blogs, and at cocktail parties about the goings-on there. This summer, it finally began making some noise. It was one of five teams shortlisted for the Governors Island competition, in New York, the results of which were unveiled in June.

In a contest that sought landscape proposals, REX’s entry stood out for several reasons: not least of which was the statement “this is not a landscape proposal.” The entry is a self-described “development strategy,” designed collaboration with the French landscape architect Michel Desvigne, that calls for gridding the 172-acre site into smaller plots that can be developed with landscapes as the need arises.

Should REX win the competition, which will be decided this fall, the commission will join several projects underway at the firm. Among other new commissions is a headquarters for the Turkish fashion house Vakko and its sister company Power Media, in Istanbul, Turkey. REX came by this project during New York’s Fashion Week in March, when the clients walked unsolicited into its studio and offered them the job.

These large projects keep REX’s staff of 45 humming—evidenced by the steady flow of espresso in the studio’s kitchen and the growing piles of blue foam for model making scattered about the workspace. Laid out on one table is a series of 15 different and detailed models for the Vakko building; on another are the glass prototypes for its glazing. Astonishingly, the project will be executed over the span of 10 months, from its commission to the completion of construction. Using a concrete skeleton already in place for what had been a failed hotel project by another developer, REX enclosed the structure with a glass curtain wall and, by adding a corridor at one end of the building, converted the U-shaped plan into a box with courtyard.

REX is also still busy with projects from its OMA days. It recently began moving forward on the Deichmanske Library and Stenersen Museum, located in Oslo, Norway. Although OMA won this commission in a 2002 competition, bureaucratic hurdles delayed the start of schematic designs until this year. REX has prepared seven plans that it will present to the client after the Norwegian elections next month, which will determine who oversees the project. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2009.

Another OMA holdover is the Museum Plaza, now under construction in Louisville. REX’s design for the building groups six volumes—each reminiscent of a small skyscraper—into a larger 62-story assemblage. Construction on the $465-million building will be completed in 2010. Admirers of REX won’t have to wait that long to see the young firm’s first built project. The 575-seat Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre in Dallas, a $275-million project designed in collaboration with OMA, should be completed next year.

Correction: The Dallas Center for the Performing Arts Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre will be completed in 2009. It is part of a larger complex, whose total cost is $275 million. The complex includes an opera house and outdoor square, designed by Foster + Partners, as well as a performance hall, designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

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